Wow, I was wrong. Somehow Josh Mandel’s horrible, no good week got worse. A lot worse. This morning The Toledo Blade reported that Mandel’s Senate campaign accepted over $100,000 in campaign contributions from Ben Suarez, his family, and his employees at Suarez Corporation. On top of the $100,000 in contributions from Suarez and his employees, Ben Suarez and his wife gave an additional $30,000 to a political action committee closely associated with Josh Mandel.
…in the current election cycle, a large number of his [Suarez] employees and their wives — many of whom have never before given to federal campaigns — have contributed to two specific congressional candidates: Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Republican running for U.S. Senate, and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci (R., Wadsworth), who represents Ohio’s 16th District.
All together, 17 employees from Canton-based Suarez Corporation have contributed to one or both candidates, according to federal campaign filings. Sixteen of those employees (and six of their spouses) have given $5,000, the maximum amount allowed under federal election law. For some of the employees and their spouses, that adds up to $20,000. In all, Mr. Suarez, his employees, and their spouses gave $100,000 to Mr. Mandel’s campaign and $100,250 to Mr. Renacci’s campaign.
Of the 15 employees, or their spouses, that gave to the Josh Mandel campaign 12 of them had never given to another campaign before. Of those that were employees, their titles ranged from ‘copywriter’, ‘account manager’, ‘writer’, to just ‘management’.
This activity looked shady enough to prompt The Blade to reach out to some campaign finance experts and they seemed to agree.
Campaign finance experts said it was especially surprising to see individuals with those titles giving such large amounts.
“A $5,000 contribution from someone who makes $300,000 a year is completely normal,” said Paul S. Ryan, an attorney with the Campaign Legal Center in Washington. “A $5,000 campaign contribution from someone who makes $30,000 a year strikes me as unordinary.”
So, all of these employees of a prominent Republican donor decided independent of each other that now was the time in their lives to start giving to Republican candidates. Not only did they all decide that they were going to start giving to Republican candidates, but they are all decided to start giving to the same candidate – Josh Mandel. Then each was so moved by Josh Mandel and his charm that they independent of each other all gave the max contribution to his campaign on their first ever political donation.
You know what they call that kind of money on The Wire? Dirty money. That’s some dirty money Josh Mandel managed to rake in from these people.
Of course it is entirely possibly that the scenario I described above could have happened. Seeing how Ben Suarez, the owner of the company, and his wife, both maxed out to Mandel it is possible. Here is the thing though, Ben Suarez is a millionaire. According to The Blade his home is worth $2.3 million. None of his employees who gave are nearly that wealthy.
A review of publicly available Stark County Auditor records shows that about half the employees who contributed to the two campaigns own homes valued at $66,000 to $183,000. Five own homes valued at more than $300,000. Mr. Suarez’s home is valued at $2.3 million.
Which brings us to our history lesson of the day. Today’s lesson is about Tom Noe and his adventures in campaign fraud. You may remember Tom Noe from such hits as the “coingate” scandal where in he was found guilty of stealing millions of dollars while working for the state through a rare-coin scandal gone wrong. What you may not remember about Tom Noe is that besides the “coingate” scandal he also plead guilty to illegally funneling over $45,000 to the George W. Bush re-election campaign.
You wanna take a guess what they got him for? For using two dozen people as conduits to make illegal campaign contributions at a fundraiser for George Bush in Columbus. Basically, after Noe maxed out on how much he could give to the Bush campaign he started giving money to other people and having them give the same amount to the Bush campaign as a contribution in their own names. You know what happens when you do that? You break federal campaign law and you end up going to jail for 10 years like Tom Noe.
In Noe’s case he plead guilty and was sent to jail for making illegal conduit contributions totaling over $45,000. If Ben Suarez may have done a similar thing, with contributions through his employees to Josh Mandel and U.S. Representative Jim Renacci, than he could be on the hook for over $200,000 worth of illegal contributions to these two campaigns.
For Josh Mandel’s this doesn’t help an already bad week. Last week it was, ‘I don’t know how copyright law works‘. Earlier this week it was, ‘I don’t know how to file my financial disclosure forms on time‘. This is an entirely different beast. This is, ‘I may have accepted $100,000 worth of illegal contributions’. That’s a rough one.
But, on the bright side I get to start referring to him as ‘Dirty Money’ Josh Mandel now. Which, I’m kind of excited about.